How brands are pivoting in the face of COVID-19


Covid-19 has brought the world to an uneasy halt. Citizens in most countries have been encouraged, or ordered, to practice social distancing and help “flatten the curve.” The global pandemic is pushing existing infrastructure to its limits, sometimes forcing communities to redistribute resources and build networks of mutual support. Governments are walking a precarious tightrope between suppressing the pandemic’s spread and ensuring some degree of economic normalcy.

It is an unprecedented challenge. Many brands are rightly puzzled as to how, or even whether, they should address a topic that demands so much sensitivity. This is not a time to be cheeky or awkward, not do people need any more gloom and doom. They are worried enough as is.

Hershey, one of the largest confectionery makers globally, recently pulled an ad featuring hugs and handshakes—given the risks of transmission interpersonal contact can pose—to focus on product-centric commercials.

It’s no easy task, but marketers have been more than experienced in adapting to unusual circumstances to deliver relevant messages that bring some delight and relief to consumers. Take a look at what some leading brands are doing.

Keeping in line with government recommendations

Nike’s “Play Inside"

Nike successfully tied their sports branding with recommendations by governments and medical experts to practice social distancing amid Covid-19. Together with their donations to Covid-19 response efforts, this initiative demonstrated the company’s intent to be a source of support for the world, continuing its fusion of sports and social responsibility.

Coca-Cola’s Time Square billboard

Coca-Cola was quick to repurpose its Time Square Billboard to promote safe practices for curb the spread. The message was clear: Social distancing is the way to go. Coupled with donations from their philanthropic arm, this repurposed ad space has similarly allowed Coca-Cola to reaffirm their social commitment to consumers.

Providing relief to employees and consumers

If there is a time for brands to give back to the community, it is now.

Microsoft’s announcement

In the facing of economic uncertainty, Microsoft stepped up, announcing that they would continue paying hourly workers regardless of whether their services are necessary. This ensured job security—and full wages—for over 4,500 employees.


The online video platform provider Loom made Loom Pro free for students and teachers, reducing the financial stress faced by educational institutions and setting an example in making technology accessible during a difficult period.

Shine Distillery

Hand sanitizers have been in shortage since the pandemic began. Portland’s Shine Distillery started giving away hand cleaners—made from high-proof ethanol, water, and gel—for free. This no only served those in need but established the distillery as a member of its community.

Leveraging technology to prevent the spread

Brands aren’t the only ones getting it right. Singapore, despite being one of the first countries to be hit with a Covid-19 outbreak, has been able to keep infected cases low thanks to their innovative contact tracking measures.

The Singaporean government introduced a smartphone app, TraceTogether, to monitor the user’s real-time location and proximity to others, alerting anyone who has come into contact with carriers and requesting them to share their app logs with the government. This allows Singapore’s Ministry of Health to arrange tests in a timely and coordinated manner.

Singapore’s innovative approach, along with its other swift containment policies, has proven more or less successful, as the country has only 926 confirmed cases as of March 31, 2020. It is, however, hard to see it replicated in the US due to HIPAA.

Covid-19 is demanding resiliency, solidarity, and creativity from communities across the world. It is a time for brands to stand with consumers, to find meaningful ways to give back and lend support to those in need. The time for positive changes is now.


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